Over at Politico, Kevin Robillard devoted a story on November 7 to the matter of "How Larry Hogan won in Maryland." But throughout the story, Robillard weaved a narrative that almost if not completely pooh-poohed the idea that the Anne Arundel County businessman had anything of substance to do with his Tuesday night victory.
Instead, Robillard weaved Democratic pundits -- plus one establishment Republican one -- throughout his story who painted a picture of a perfect storm of Democratic overconfidence, a Republican wave election, and slick campaign message trickery as the tsunami that swept Anthony Brown out to sea as it hurtled Hogan into the governor's mansion (emphasis mine):
Hogan’s staff began to have real hope for their candidate in the spring. An internal poll, conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, found 58 percent of voters didn’t believe O’Malley deserved a third term. More than 60 percent said Maryland needed a clear change in direction. Hogan focused on presenting himself as someone who could revitalize the state’s economy at the expense of almost every other issue. The campaign portrayed Brown as “The Most Incompetent Man in Maryland,” hammering him for botching the rollout of the state’s health care system and for the state’s subpar job growth.
Brown’s campaign was still attempting to float above the fray with Hogan. After winning the Democratic primary by 27 points over Attorney General Doug Gansler and progressive Del. Heather Mizeur, even the candidate assumed dispatching Hogan was a foregone conclusion.
“We take that hill, and then we’ve got a little bit of a mole hill to take in November,” Brown said shortly before the primary.
Democrats would come to regret their certainty.
“A lot of Democrats took this race for granted,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told MSNBC the day before Election Day. “There wasn’t a lot of excitement, a lot of energy.”
The [Brown] campaign also seemed to alienate other Democratic allies. Mizeur, who finished third in the primary, wrote an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, noting her disappointment in the campaign’s negative tone — and said she was “told [the Brown campaign] had no interest in promoting new policies.” Valerie Ervin, a former Montgomery County Council chairwoman and close ally of Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), told the Washington Post she had “offered plenty of advice that wasn’t listened to.”
The Brown campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Hogan responded to the Brown campaign’s attacks on social issues by swearing not to touch the state’s abortion laws or roll back gun control. His ad maker, Russ Schriefer, said an ad starring Hogan’s daughter Jaymi — “These ads attacking him as anti-women are just wrong,” she said in the spot — was able to effectively rebut Democrat attempts to turn Hogan into a boogeyman.
“It was like magic,” said Schriefer, who was Mitt Romney’s media consultant in 2012 and has worked for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. “It really stopped this idea that Larry Hogan was a crazy right-winger.”
A second set of ads Schriefer made in the race’s closing days featuring regular citizens speaking direct to the camera were intended to give Democrats, independents and female voters “permission” to vote for a Republican. Schriefer made the spots by interviewing about a dozen Hogan supporters using a cheap version of a Interrotron — the type of camera Errol Morris famously used in “The Fog of War.” It allows an interviewer to look an interviewee directly in the eye while filming.
Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager, tried to tamp down expectations in a pre-election interview with POLITICO.
“In presidential years, Maryland is the bluest of blue states,” he added. “In non-presidential years, it’s more of a purple state.”
Despite complaints about Brown’s campaign, many Democrats in the state were insistent the national environment ultimately determined Brown’s fate.
“Hogan had the good sense to run for governor in the year of a major Republican wave,” said state Sen. Jim Rosapepe. “That’s really the simplest explanation.”
The overall impression is clear: Hogan won by luck and by slick messaging, not because he tapped a vein of public sentiment on policy issues. To be sure, a fair assessment would give due credit to Brown's overconfidence, the Republican wave, and effective campaign messaging, but Hogan also deserves credit for a appealing to Marylanders on substantial pocketbook issues and winning them over.
Of course, to give Hogan that credit doesn't serve the larger liberal media narrative, which is desperately avoiding giving Republicans any credit for their election victories, including and especially in traditionally liberal Democratic strongholds.